October 23, 2013
Leveraging NY Thruway Authority's Fiber-Optic Communications Network
By Daniel Brecht
In New York State, the Thruway Authority provides travelers with important information while they are on the road, including traffic conditions, advisories, images from traffic cameras, gas prices and incidents. In order to do that, a 20-year agreement was signed in 1996 with MFS Network Technologies, an Omaha, NE-based company, to create a comprehensive fiber-optic network that would provide support for data, video and voice communication.
The $55 million agreement was supposed to come at no cost for taxpayers, thanks to third-party financing, which would provide the entire length of the New York State Thruway (641 miles) with an intelligent data transportation system. Cables would be buried along the entire length of the road that connects the city of New York to Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo and even Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Canada.
The agreement was in line with the trend of municipalities looking for private solutions for their needs. The New York State Highway Transportation Agency, despite budget cuts, was able to provide a much-needed service without having to resort to taxpayers’ investments to cover the costs of installation and operation. In fact, costs were meant to be covered by leasing fiber-optic lines and capacity to other entities, including traveler-information services, communications providers, cable TV companies and similar businesses.
At the time of the agreement, Michael J. Keogh, who was director of general services, identified the deregulation of the telecommunication industry and the high demand for services as the driving forces behind the need for the new infrastructure. The large communication project was undertaken after reviewing a report and market analysis conducted by Palmer-Bellevue, a division of Coopers & Lybrand, which identified that the market demand existed but was not met at the moment.
The large project was divided into eight segments and the completion date was set for 1997. A four-duct, four-inch, polyvinyl chloride-conduit system was buried along the entire length of the road. One duct was reserved for use by Thruway Authority and three were revenue-generating ducts to be leased to interested parties. A network management center was placed in Albany for monitoring the system and all operations.
Third party users had the option of installing their own fiber lines in the leased duct or activate dark fibers placed by the Thruway Authority; fees were charged depending on the number of lines needed and mileage to be covered. This could represent a good deal for both the state, which can see the costs of the project covered by external revenues, and for third-party users that may want to access a large communication infrastructure without having to bear the costs of installation on their own or having to acquire permits and deal with construction. Since 80 percent of New York State residents live within 10 miles of the Thruway, many providers could use the new fiber optic lines to reach a much larger market.
Edited by Blaise McNamee
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